I am dead to me.
Today, due to a shabby reading of emails, I have broken one of my personal rules of stand up. I am off the artistic roll-call. I am a spent force. My words are lies, my posturing a sham.
I spent three hours today repeating facts about the chewiness of sweets into a microphone while I was told whether my voice stressed the correct syllables of salesmanship.
I have done an advert.
I am the voice of the sponsor of a TV sitcom. I am the sound of confectionery.
Does this now mean that I might as well do anything that gets offered to me? Should I look back with regret at the larger sums of money I didn’t take in the past to voice a thing? Shall I see if someone, anyone, who makes land mines, pears of anguish, or pitchforks, will sponsor my tours?
I have sold out (in terms of my own personal rulebook, you do what you want) because I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. When I misread the first email, I thought they wanted me to voice something about wormholes, Newton’s third law and knot theory. “That’ll be okay, I presume David Mitchell was either busy or too expensive”. Then, when I read the confirmation of the gig, at 18:05, telling me it was on and to be at a recording studio at 9.30am the next day, I felt a wave of nausea and my stomach thudded like a cartoon wolf swallowing an anvil. This was to voice the sponsor of a TV programme (quite a good one) and annunciate a brand of chew.
I told my wife. She looked shocked. She knew I would never be able to do my judgmental face when i heard a stand up voicing an ad or smiling at discount furniture.
Had I been in and seen the email earlier, I would have apologised and declined, but there was no interim working hours time to contact anyone. I had sold out, not for money, but due to politeness. Was I part of a Milgram experiment.
“I think my ethics are beginning to hurt” “continue the chewy sweet commercial” “but I can hear them screaming” “you must continue to sell the chew”.
I thought of the people I admired who had voiced adverts. Hadn’t John Peel sold toffee chocolate biscuits and spiced meat spears? Wasn’t Alexei Sayle once the voice of an amplifier? Hasn’t Tom Baker sold cream of tomato soup and tarpaulins? was Michael Legge not the voice of Derry Choc Ices? Perhaps I can pretend this is the acting me, not the stand up me. Hmmmm.
Thus, I sat in a booth, saying things over and over again, imagining that this clueless sibilant hack should be thrown out and replaced by Brian Blessed or Kate Robbins. On a few occasions, during the long pauses as they looked concerned through the glass, I thought of picking up my rucksack and sneaking out, it would probably be best for all of us. Once, I made a suggestion and got a look of, “you just speak the words, now shut up and say, “fruity” with more dramatic resonance. Now say it as if you have just seen a horse give birth, Now say it as if you have never tasted candy floss. Now, as if your licking salt off the back of George Bernard Shaw”.
And it was done. I left the Wardour Street office a different human to the one who went in. What should I sell next? At night, all I hear is brand names and the sound of chewing. I didn’t even do it for the money, though I will still use the money. Perhaps I was so numb tongued they’ll found someone else. Twenty years, and then I surrendered due to hasty reading. Many people have told me it doesn’t matter, “hey, it’s just a chew”, but it all seems odd to me. I imagine I will eat one of the chews, perilous at my age and with my precarious teeth, and it will wrench out a molar, the agony costing me exactly the same in dental repair bills as the money I received for my sandwich board voice work. I bet you’d like that. And I promise, as a scream and spit blood, I’ll do it so deliciously that you’ll think, “I don’t know what he’s been chewing, but I’m going to buy me some of that”.
I have become Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I am no longer what I seem.
Buy tickets to my shows – Hull, Leeds, York, Swansea, Newcastle, Newport, Glasgow and more. details HERE
I didn’t do it for the money, though it’ll come in handy for my money losing science app cosmicgenome.com
and remember, stay chewy and delicious.